When a movie is successful, Hollywood is often quick to summon a sequel. When a celebrated film’s follow-up is equally renowned, something truly magical has happened. As moviegoers, favored franchises take up a very special place in our hearts and become something we feel privileged to have been a part of. But more often than not, filmmakers will finally get sloppy with their new addition, and upon viewing, our disappointment is multiplied, sometimes beyond rational explanation. Watching a movie in a franchise that causes it to jump the shark is very hard to bear. Here we rank the top ten examples of the movie within a blockbuster series that did all that damage.
10. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Until 1980, the biggest fear a camp counselor had was poison oak and a bed-wetting bunk member. Then came “Friday the 13th,” which saw them become easy prey for a distraught mother of a drowned camper. Her beheading, and the film’s success, saw the young son’s – who in death somehow grew into a man – resurrection and resumption of his mom’s murderous rampage. A non-profit family business in a sense. The “Friday the 13th” franchise sits atop the slasher film genre and its hockey-masked monster, Jason Vorhees, its most famous. But the 9th installment, which finally sent Jason to a fiery afterlife, fittingly was where the franchise did, in a sense, die for good.
The joy audiences normally received seeing coeds snuffed out and mutilated in all sorts of creative ways was replaced with an emotion most closely resembling a longer than expected phone call to your cable company. While most if not all the “Friday” films have plenty of faults to find – VIII’s voyage to NYC was loudly lambasted because it spent a blood drops-worth of screen time in the city that gave its title its name – “Hell” was so bedeviling that the reboots that eventually followed couldn’t shake the stench of an overused body bag. (Photo Credit: New Line Cinema/Photofest)
9. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
The current superhero fever Hollywood is under may be traced all the way back to 2002 and the release of “Spider-Man.” We’d seen “Superman” and “Batman” before and the success of “X-Men” had begun to hasten the globe’s mutant acceptance, but there was something watershed about “Spider-Man,” a slick, vibrant take on the Marvel idol that truly changed perceptions of how viable a comic book franchise was. The original film knocked it out of the park, with a young cast bringing great spirit to the story of a savior new to the big screen. A sequel followed with a great villain and this series had moviegoers stuck in its web. Then along came a “Spider-Man 3.”
A blockbuster yes, which made hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide, but the individual ticket holder was left scratching their head. Big, busy and bloated with a meandering script and an annoying romantic subplot, this installment was a truly tangled trainwreck. Somehow one villain was not enough, so audiences were served up three, whose presences were all so brief and scattered that their evil deeds left little impact. But what people most turned their noses up at was a dance montage of Peter Parker being groovy and hip, which made actor Tobey Maguire look thoroughly uncool. A planned “Spider-Man 4” was eventually scrapped and a reboot never managed to capture the original’s swing. (Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures/Photofest)
8. Superman III (1983)
Before CGI became standard fare, 1978 audiences were truly mesmerized to see “Superman” fly onscreen. Though not as boldly colored and glossy as the comic book adaptations sprouting up today, his trailblazing original feature can still teach most of present day’s ubiquitous offerings a thing or two about narrative, suspense, and even coherence. “Superman” was followed up by “Superman II” which somehow gave the first installment’s amazing villain stiff competition with another badass who was a force to be reckoned with. That all ended in 1983.
In an attempt to bring all-out humor to the franchise, Richard Pryor was cast as a wisecracking, lovable nemesis and the film pretty much collapsed from there as if it were exposed to kryptonite or a nefarious krytonite-like substitute. What was left was a ridiculous mess of a movie that literally never got off the ground. Right from the get-go even, the pre-credit sequence was just jaw-droppingly awful. Considering how much hard work was put into the first two “Superman” films to earn the franchise a revered reputation, this sluggish, sloppy third tainted all that with the force of a gut punch from the Man of Steel himself. (Photo Credit: Warner Bros./Photofest)
7. Star Trek, Nemesis (2002)
When it comes to shark jumping, like the Enterprise’s space adventures themselves, “Star Trek” has had some close calls. Critics may agree that the franchise could have certainly jumped from the start, with its first film installment garnering poor reviews. For such a huge pop culture moment – launching a legendary, special effects- heavy TV series onto the big screen – its slow pace and inaction disappointed most. But there was enough profit to produce a follow up and “The Wrath of Khan” soared. Two successes followed and then the reigns were given to The Captain himself, William Shatner, to direct the next chapter. Another big bust, but not a nail in the coffin. The final film in the series, “The Undiscovered Country” sent the crew off on a high note.
Officially though we believe the franchise as a whole phased out for good when the torch was passed to “The Next Generation,” which admirably carried it over the course of four films. But its last, “Nemesis,” was a commercial flop. So much so that if there had been effort to bring the other TV spinoffs to the big screen, this dud likely put them to rest. Yes, JJ Abrams has rebooted the series as a “Muppet Babies”-esque origin story film series, but despite financial success they sure don’t capture the raw devotion we feel towards the original characters from both original TV series. (Photo Credit: Paramount/Photofest)
6. Jaws 3D (1983)
If we’re going to discuss shark jumping here it’s only fitting that we include a film about a shark. Back when Spielberg was fresh and exciting, he single-handedly ushered in the concept of the summer blockbuster with his masterful sea epic. “Jaws” was influential at every level – storytelling, imagery, music, even the poster for the darn thing is iconic. The studio quickly saw that making money from this brand would be like shooting fish in a barrel – so “Jaws 2” was spawned. Kinda ridiculous – could a shark really best a helicopter? – but edge of your seat fun, like a great all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, this sequel left audiences craving more. “Jaws 3D” was not what they had in mind.
Back in 1983, expectant audiences accessorized with cardboard glasses – yes, kids, they were made from cardboard with plastic paper lenses then – were only left seasick. There was nothing enjoyable about this sequel, just purposeless and plodding, even the items that popped out from the screen at you were dismissible. Who would have thought watching one 2D waterskier get attacked by a shark in Part 2 would be more satisfying than seeing a whole 3D troupe fall to one in Part 3? “Jaws 3D” was such a fatal blow to the franchise that when they trotted out Chief Brody’s wife – Chief Brody’s wife! – to headline “Jaws: The Revenge” a few years later, by that time the true victims of that “Revenge” were the audience. (Photo Credit: MCA/Universal)
5. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
Number one was an intense low-budget sci-fi masterpiece with a mind-bending story and breathtaking action. The film that launched Arnold to stardom and his declaration, “I’ll be back,” as his classic catchphrase. Number two was a rollicking big budget extravaganza which upped the ante tenfold on action, special effects, and general awe. This was a runaway roller coaster that no one wanted to stop. Comparatively, “Terminator 3” smelled like another kind of number two completely.
James Cameron was gone as director. Linda Hamilton was gone as the leading lady. Edward Furlong, whose personal life had spiraled out of control was replaced with Nick Stahl (who would go on to suffer from his own offscreen troubles.) What was left was Arnold, who’s always a kick to have around, sure, but isn’t going to deliver any high-minded, story-steering dialogue, and Claire Danes, who we only really wanted to see brood about social pressure like she did as a teen on TV, not about an upcoming robot apocalypse in a beloved film series. The “Terminator” franchise did not end here. We’ve seen one starring Christian Bale – though the most notable moment of “Salvation” was the hot tempered actor’s secretly recorded behind-the-scenes meltdown. And a new version is on the horizon. But the greatness of the original two has not be replicated. Unfortunately, traveling back in time to alter the past might be the only method to do so. (Photo Credit: Photofest)
4. The Godfather Part III (1990)
When you’ve made two films in a series that are considered to be among the best ever made, when making their follow-up, particularly almost to two decades later, you should tread very carefully. The passage of time has been kind to “The Godfather Part III” with critics now arguing that it’s not a terrible movie. But that might not exactly be the point. The point is if you’re lucky and skilled enough to create two Faberge eggs, don’t complement them with a really nice-looking one from Macy’s. It’s just not the same.
Francis Ford-Coppola’s first two “Godfather” films may even be too triumphant to have the inferior “Part III” stain its legacy. Some may argue otherwise. But regardless, when it was released in 1990, this was a letdown of monumental proportions. Conspicuously missing from the cast was Robert Duvall, who opted out for financial reasons, and has surmised that the movie was only made for the same reason instead of a creative drive to advance the saga. And most of the blame for the film’s bad rap was laid upon Sofia Coppola, the director’s daughter, who was a last-minute replacement for an ailing Winona Ryder in an integral role. Maybe the trilogy’s most chilling refrain, “don’t go against the family,” shouldn’t apply to casting. (Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/Photofest)
3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
The goofy title alone should have been clue enough that something bad was about to happen here. Moviegoers were so excited that everyone’s favorite archaeologist was dusting off his fedora and whip for another adventure, though, that only good thoughts prevailed in their anticipation. Though critics were respectful as they mostly are to anything Spielberg or Lucas do, the public’s enthusiasm quickly collided with this cinematic crime of the 21st Century. At first some fans, hungover with excitement at seeing Indy in action again at long last, were slow to absorb the enormity of this transgression, but time and reality eventually sunk in and the fanboys were furious.
In “Kingdom,” Indy, our hero, was subjected to one absurd tribulation after the next in the form of angry monkeys, giant ants, and long-dormant aliens, or worse, the revelation that Shia LeBeouf was his son. But most egregious was his survival of a nuclear blast by hiding in a refrigerator that was shot in the air and crash-landed to safety. In its entirety, this boulder-sized letdown was perhaps best expressed in a “South Park” episode where the boys come to terms with the shock of witnessing firsthand his famous creators wrestling Indy to the ground…and raping him. (Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/Photofest)
2. Alien 3 (1992)
Ridley Scott. James Cameron. David Fincher. Which one does not belong? The answer is David Fincher. The worst thing to ever happen to me in a movie theater was “Alien 3.” In 1979, Ridley Scott combined horror, sci-fi and action and gave us one of the most influential movies of all time. In 1986, James Cameron was bestowed this prized property and with great care advanced the story as a non-stop action adventure that continues to thrill today. In 1992, David Fincher, behaving like a egomaniacal sociopath, unzipped and pissed all that rich history away.
In “Alien 3” the surviving cast from “Aliens” was quickly killed off, in the first moments actually, save for Sigourney Weaver. My god, James Cameron had so much respect for his source material he even saved the life of the original’s fucking cat. No similar respect here, nor interest in a compelling story, and what we were left with was an overextended merry-go-round chase between the alien and her unlucky prey. Shark? Jumped. The malodorous “Resurrection” would follow, as would a bout with a Predator, and then a lethargic if not picturesque origin story from Ridley himself. But we must remember it was Fincher who delivered the fatal blow upon a franchise brimming with life and action. (Photo Credit: 20th Century-Fox/Photofest)
1. Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Way over a decade before, Prince once sang that we’d “party like it’s 1999.” If he knew what was to be released in theaters that year, he may have changed his tune. Film history’s darkest hour, worse than any Imperial invasion, and perhaps the very flashpoint for civilization’s decline over the last 15 years.
Oh, “New Hope.” You brought the thrill of popcorn movie action lightyear’s ahead of anything we’d ever seen before. The characters you introduced to us, particularly those fighting within the Rebel Alliance, instantly became like family. Ones we’d have seats for at any of our holiday tables if they didn’t exist such a long, long time ago in such a far, far off locale. “Empire” and “Return” followed and over the course of that trilogy, with darkness always trailing behind, we, even mere audience members, were finally victorious and left feeling like Jedi.
To call “Phantom Menace” a travesty does disservice to all the travesties that came before and after. George Lucas made this film for his ego, his estate, and the shelves of Toys ‘R Us. His loyal fanbase meant nothing and he spent $115 million of a production budget to give us nothing. The most agonizing of our shark jumps, the films that followed were equally godawful, and left us wondering if three wrongs cancel out three rights. All we know is Jar Jar Binks never entered our action figure collection, and for this we are tearfully thankful.
Episodes VII, VIII, and IX are all on their way. We’d like to be hopeful. We need to be hopeful. But knowing what J.J. Abrams did to water down the once flavorful “Star Trek” franchise, we’re bracing ourselves for some more Death Star-sized disappointment. (Photo Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd./20th Century Fox/Photofest)